Newtown 1892-1922: A Social Sketch



From the 1890s to the 1920s many events occurred in Newtown which affected the lives of the suburb’s inhabitants. Some were of purely local significance, such as the celebrations of the Jubilee and Diamond Jubilee of the Municipality in 1912 and 1922 respectively. Other events were of national and even world significance. The depression of the 1890s was felt in Newtown no less than other parts of Australia. Newtown rejoiced with the rest of Australia at Federation in 1901. Newtown grieved when a queen or king died and cheered when a new king took the British throne. The suburb’s loyalties were openly to the Mother Country and when Great Britain found herself at war in Europe Newtown felt bound to do its part with the rest of Australia. When peace came in 1919 the folk of Newtown were relieved and welcomed home their brave soldiers. However the year was marred by the pneumonia pandemic which many identified with the earlier bubonic plague which hit Sydney in 1900. Thus the Municipality’s experience in these years mixed joy with sadness, hardship with affluence and health with disease through all of which the community pulled together to face their common lot.

The 1880s in Australia were the years of the building boom and Newtown had experienced a long boom evidenced by the subdivision of the suburb from 1845 to the 1880s, almost entirely lapsing only in the 1860s.1 When the crash came in Melbourne in 1891 the effects were felt in Newtown along with the rest of Sydney. The worst years were 1892-95 and for this period one man seems to have dominated the local scene. He was William Rigg, J. P., Member of the Legislative Assembly, alderman since 1890 and Mayor of Newtown from 1892-94.2

  • 1. M. Ryan, op. cit., p 124
  • 2. S. D. Smith, op. cit., p 8


On his retirement from office in 1895 he was honoured with the presentation of an illuminated address from the Newtown Council. It reads,

On the eve of your retirement from the Mayoral Chair, we the officers and workmen in the Council’s employ congratulate you on the fact that you have held this high and honorable office for three years consecutively, and during that period you have been chosen to represent a large body of electors in this Parliament of the Country.

We desire to express our deep sense of the justice and uprightness which has characterised all your dealings, and of the public spirited Benevolence which you have manifested and endeavoured to inculcate during the general depression.

We assure you that you and yours have our heartiest and best wishes for the future.

Signed on behalf of the above.

Jesse Cowley Council Clerk

The address, dated at Newtown, February 1895, was signed by thirteen council officers and men.

As Mayor, William Rigg had guided the council and safeguarded its workmen during the depression. In 1892 the overdraft was about £6800 and a Mayoral Minute of 22nd March urged for extreme care in passing votes for works. Repairs and absolutely necessary works only were to be continued and street watering was to end as no special rate was charged.

  • 1. V * ILL AD 15, Mitchell Library MS.


Plate 56. Illuminated Address given to William Rigg.


He cautioned them in financial matters. The Colonial Secretaries Office informed the council that a labour bureau had been established in Sydney and asked that ‘the state of the labour market be communicated to its manager.’1 Mayor Rigg’s report on the previous year’s proceedings and finances at the start of 1893 was an innovation. The overdraft had been reduced to £5825 and various improvements effected including the widening of the Newtown Bridge and the approaching completion of the Newtown Post Office. In March 1893 a petition was received by the Council calling for a public meeting on methods of relieving ‘the great distress prevailing amongst the unemployed of Newtown. ‘ Mayor Rigg again urged for economy and it was decided by the council to employ its men in squads which would work week about. Thus the jobs of five men were saved. The Mayor’s report in 1894 told of a reduction in the overdraft of £1299 12s. 9d.2 A loan of £6000 for the wood blocking of Enmore Road at 5 per cent for four and a quarter years was obtained in 1894, £5000 of which fell due in 1896 and was renewed for two years at four per cent.3 It was not until 1898 that William Rigg, again mayor, could report that the overdraft had been paid off and council had to its credit a balance of £164/17/1.4 One sign of earlier recovery is the number of buildings which were built in 1896.5 On 19th January, 1900 Sydney’s first plague victim was isolated. He was Arthur Payne, van driver, of 10 Ferry Lane, The Rocks. Between then and 9th August, 1900 there were 303 cases of the bubonic plague in Sydney of which 103 proved fatal. The infection was spread by flea-infested rats. Most of the cases were in the city proper but suburban cases included

  • 1. NMC Minutes 9th March 1892, p 144
  • 2. W. Chubb, op. cit., p 31
  • 3. Ibid., p 32
  • 4. Ibid., p 33
  • 5. e. g. 183-5 and 305-9 King St., Newtown


10 in Waterloo, 24 in Redfern and 10 in Glebe. Parts of Darlington and Glebe were quarantined and cleansed.1 Newtown was not far away and it is no surprise that the plague struck here too. The first case in Newtown was Fred Yates of 25 Trade St. in the west of the municipality. He worked for a big Sydney firm which imported goods hence he would have had contact with the port areas which were the first to be affected by the plague. Quick action was taken. Fred Yates was quarantined in his home with the rest of the family. They were not allowed out and no one was allowed in. Their food supplies were sent into them. No chance was taken. Policemen patrolled the street in front of the house and the lane behind. Fred Yates was fortunate. He survived. Those less fortunate ended up on the cart which called for the bodies of victims. Everywhere people were afraid they would be next.2 No effort or expense was spared in preventing the plague from obtaining a hold in the borough. The Newtown Council conducted a house to house inspection. Its reports reveal that a sanitary problem existed in the municipality. For example, the Board of Health was informed of the sanitary condition of Princes Street, off Camden Street, and the Inspector of Nuisances reported ‘that a nuisance does exist caused by the flow of drainage from a terrace of houses being blocked through the operations of the water sewerage contractors in laying the sewer!3 The Council purchased a large quantity of disinfectant and accepted the government’s offer of free disinfectant. Drains were flushed and disinfectant was supplied free to all who applied. The assistance of ‘a smart and intelligent workman’ was given to the Inspector.4 In one fortnight 22 premises were cleansed and disinfected and over one thousand premises had been inspected by the end of March.5

  • 1 Max Kelly, Plague Sydney 1900. A Photographic Introduction To A Hidden Sydney, 1900, Doak Press, Paddington, 1981, no pagination
  • 2. P. Cole, interview cited.
  • 3. NMC Minutes 13th March 1900, p 256
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. NMC Minutes 27th March 1900, p 263


Concern was expressed over ‘the insanitary condition of the back portion of the Newtown Public School’ and it was felt prosecution was in order. The mayor stated that ‘although there were some dirty places and these were being looked after, he was pleased with the general sanitary condition of the Borough.’1 On 10th April the Inspector reported that 2607 premises had been visited and of 50 which were revisited only five of the occupants had failed to carry out the council’s instructions.2 Late in April the Board of Health informed the Council that the Premier had approved of ‘the gratuitous distribution of rat poison to responsible Householders with a view to encouraging more general, active and persistent effort to destroy rats’ and the Council was authorised to employ a man at no more than seven shillings per day at the Government’s expense to extract ‘the bodies of dead rats from the inaccessible places to which they may retire to die.’3 The next year, 1901, was noted for the death of the Queen and the birth of the Commonwealth. At the end of 1900 the council helped in the formation of a Citizens’ Committee to join in the celebrations of Federation.4 Mr. Flanagan worked enthusiastically as honorary secretary and within fourteen days £250 had been raised to decorate and illuminate the principal streets of Newtown.5 A large photo of the opening of the first Parliament of Australia in the Exhibition Building, Melbourne, was hung in the Town Hall.6 At the meeting on 29th January 1901 the Council mourned the death of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria, expressing their deep sympathy to the Royal Family and congratulating King Edward VII on his accession before adjourning in respect.7

  • 1. NMC Minutes 27th March 1900, pp 263-4
  • 2. NMC Minutes 10th April 1900, p 269
  • 3. NMC Minutes 24th April 1900, p 275
  • 4. W. Chubb, op. cit., p 33
  • 5. Ibid., p 149
  • 6. Photo still in Town Hall building.
  • 7. W. Chubb, op. cit., pp 33-4


Newtown’s loyalty to the Motherland may have seemed suspect in April 1909 when a movement was underway throughout Australia to present the cost of a Dreadnought to Great Britain.1 A meeting was held at the Town Hall on the 23rd April at 8 p. m. but by 10 minutes past the hour only five people had attended. One alderman protested against ‘the hasty manner in which the meeting was adjourned.2 On 10th May 1910 the death of King Edward VII was announced. Once again the Council expressed its loyalty to its Monarch and passed a vote of loyal and respectful condolence before adjourning.3 The year was to end on a much brighter note for negotiations had been under way since the end of 1909 with the Electric Light and Power Supply Corporation. Newtown realised along with other ‘leading suburbs’ that electric street lamps would replace gas lamps.4 The streets of Newtown and its houses and shops were to be lit with electric light. The contract with the Gas Company ceased on the 31st December 1910.5 The Mayor, Alderman Harold T. Morgan, switched on the electric light on New Year’s Eve 1910 so ushering in the new year of 1911. Two substations in Regent Street and College Street distributed the power from the Balmain power house for the 450 electric lamps which replaced 418 gas lamps.6 Initially only 416 electric lamps were to be connected but so many residents complained if their street didn’t have a new lamp that the council was forced to increase the number.7

  • 1. NMC Minutes 13th April 1909, p 10
  • 2. NMC Minutes 27th April 1909, p 16
  • 3. W. Chubb, op. cit., p 36
  • 4. Ibid., p 58
  • 5. Ibid., p 36
  • 6. Ibid., pp 36, 58
  • 7. Ibid., p 36 and NMC Minutes, 17th January 1911, pp 258-9 and 14th February 1911, p 268


The coronation of King George V was celebrated on 22nd June 1911. Newtown felt the occasion should be marked in some fitting way. The Newtown Harriers conducted the Great Marathon Race over a distance of 26 miles 385 yards on that day.1 The mayor, William Rigg, suggested that the Town Hall be illuminated because ‘the suburb was a thickly populated one and as many people would be unable to visit the city to watch the illuminations there it was only right that Newtown should have a display of its own.’2 The building was to be outlined with 200 lights costing £25 and the words ‘God Save the King’ were to be installed in illuminated letters for £13 making a total of £38. The Council voted Plate 57. Coronation Hall of St. Enoch’s Presbyterian Church, erected 1911. Foundation stone laid by William Rigg on 29th April 1911. Note electricity substation grill: E. L. & P. S. stands for Electric Light and Power Supply Corporation. Corner of Probert (old Regent) St. and Lennox St.

  • 1. NMC Minutes 20th June 1911, p 324
  • 2. NMC Minutes 6th June 1911, pp 320-1


for the proposal to be effected and the business people of the borough were asked ‘to assist in illuminating their premises.’1 The year 1912 was an eventful one for Newtown which celebrated the Jubilee of the incorporation of the Municipality on 12th December 1862. Preparations began late in August when the mayor, William Rigg, suggested a public meeting of residents and ratepayers to consider the best way to celebrate.2 This was held on Monday 9th September 1912. The Newtown Jubilee Committee was formed with the support of the mayor, aldermen and town clerk, as well as the local Member of the Legislative Assembly, Robert Hollis, local school teachers, and prominent business people. During the preparations the mayor was seriously ill but he kept in close touch with all that was going on through the town clerk.3 A week of Jubilee activities was organised and Thursday 12th December 1912 was declared a public holiday.4 The Newtown and Enmore Post Offices were decorated as were many of the shops.5 Around the Town Hall, the Bank of Australasia and Croad’s Bank Hotel were hung festoons while the shield in front of the Town Hall was surrounded with coloured lamps with the words ‘Newtown Jubilee 1862-1912’ in 2 foot letters. In front of the Town Hall there was a rising sun device ‘ emblematical of the rising of Newtown’.6 A decorated bandstand was erected on Newtown Bridge on which the Newtown Brass Band performed every evening.

  • 1. NMC Minutes 6th June 1911, pp 320-1
  • 2. NMC Minutes 27th August 1912, p 455
  • 3. W. Chubb, op. cit., p 153 for list of participants
  • 4. NMC Minutes 3rd December 1912, p 473
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. W. Chubb, op. cit., p 151


They had been given a subsidy of £100 for Jubilee Year instead of the usual £50.1 The week began on Sunday 8th December 1912 with all the Churches holding Jubilee services. The Council accepted invitations to attend St. Enoch’s Presbyterian Church, Kingston at 11 a. m. and Newtown Methodist Church, King Street, at 7 p. m.2 The Methodist Church also held the Jubilee Oratorio, ‘The Messiah’, on the following evening.3 On Wednesday llth December a Jubilee Banquet was held to which were invited ‘the honorable the Premier, members of the Ministry, members of Parliament, leader of the Opposition, Commandant F. H. C. Brownlow, Colonel E. T. Wallack, C. B., the Lord Mayor of Sydney, and the Mayors of adjoining municipalities.’ The tickets cost 6/- each and entertainment was provided by leading artists and Glass and Tremain’s Orchestra.4 The highlight of the festivities was undoubtedly Jubilee Day, Thursday 12th December. The school children of the borough were to be entertained. A new flag was presented to the Newtown Superior Public School at 11 a.m. by Mayor Rigg which was unfurled by Mrs. Rigg. At 12 noon the school children, cadets, lodges and clubs assembled to march from the Bridge along King Street and Bligh Street (now Carillon Avenue) to the University Oval which was provided at no cost by the trustees. The procession was escorted by mounted police and marshalled by the Newtown Brass Band with the Kilties’ Band and Public Schools Fife and Drum Band. Infant children were conveyed to the Oval by special trams which made the return journey at 5:30 p. m. Traffic to and from Sydney was diverted along Wilson Street from 12:15 to 1 p.m.5

    • 1. Ibid., p 151 and NMC Minutes llth March 1913, p 21 and 8th April 1913, p 30
    • 2. W. Chubb, op. cit., p 151 and NMC Minutes 5th November 1912, p 466 and 19th November 1912, p 470
    • 3. NMC Minutes 19th November 1912, p


  • 4. W. Chubb, op. cit., p 151
  • 5. Ibid., pp 151-2



Each school child present was presented with a Jubilee souvenir medal, over 5000 of which were supplied by W. H. Pritchard, medallist, of King Street, Newtown. One side bore a profile photo of the mayor with the words “Newtown Jubilee, 1862-1912, W. Rigg, J. P., Mayor” and the reverse gave the names of the Aldermen and Town Clerk encircled by the words “Municipality of Newtown Commemoration Medal”. The medals were suspended from double bars, bearing the motto “Fear God and Honour the King”, attached to a tri-coloured ribbon. Children wearing the medal received refreshments at the Oval.1 Between noon and 2 p. m. the Newtown Harriers’ Athletic Club conducted amateur athletic events including the Mayor’s Handicap (100 yards), the Mayoress’ Handicap for ladies (75 yards), the Newtown Jubilee Handicap (220 yards) and the Souvenir Half Mile (880 yards).2 At 2 p. m. the children of Newtown made a human sign, reading “Newtown Jubilee, 1912”, and sang suitable songs led by Musical Director Tearne of the Public Instruction Department. The Governor of New South Wales, Lord Chelmsford, arrived at 2. 30 p. m. with his wife Lady Chelmsford and was asked to wear a Jubilee medal similar to those presented to the children. At 3 p. m. cadets who had successfully competed in musketry were presented with their medals by Commandant Brownlow and the rest of the afternoon was taken up with children’s sports, races and other activities arranged by the Public Instruction Department. A side show area included a merry-go-round, a razzle-dazzle and a Punch and Judy Show for the children and the adults were entertained by a programme of music played by the bands which had taken part in the parade.3 Medals and prizes were donated by local businessmen including a gold medal valued at £2 2s. for the best

  • 1. Ibid., p 151
  • 2. Ibid., p 153
  • 3. Ibid., p 152


Plate 58. Old Trocadero Theatre, 71-77 King St. Newtown.

dressed cadet on parade, a cash order of the same value for R. H. Gordon and Co., a tin of lollies, a tin of tea and a school bag valued at 5s. 6d.1 The celebrations didn’t end at the Oval. All children wearing the Jubilee medal were admitted free to the following local picture shows: The Stadium Picture Show, King St; Enmore Photo Play Theatre, Enmore Rd; Victoria Picture Show, Erskineville Rd; Trocadero Picture Palace, King St; Prince of Wales’ Theatre, King St; and The Stanmore Road Picture Palace. It was hoped that the Jubilee celebrations were worthy of the municipality.2 A lasting memento of the Celebrations was the Jubilee Souvenir of the Municipality of Newtown compiled by William Chubb and published by the Authority of the Newtown Council. It contained two hundred pages of Council and local history, reminiscences of by-gone days and photos and

  • 1. Ibid
  • 2. Ibid.



information about Newtown people, institutions and businesses. The book was available for 3/6 with cloth covers and 2/6 with paper covers.1 It is evidently an important source of Newtown’s history. At the request of its librarian the Mitchell Library was given a copy of the Souvenir signed by the Mayor, Aldermen and principal officers of the Council.2 The publishers, the Austral Press and Advertising Limited, wrote to the Council asking for an expression of opinion of their book ‘as a literary effort.’3 The Council replied that the publication was ‘a credit to all concerned, and the compilation, printing and binding of the work most satisfactory.’ However, the Jubilee Souvenir was not a financial success and the publishers asked the Council to donate £50 toward the costs, the matter being referred to the Jubilee Committee.4 As late as April 1913 the publishers offered the Council 500 paper cover copies of the Souvenir for a mere £20, an offer which the Council regretted it could not accept.5 For many years the Council had felt their present Town Hall to be inadequate and they desired ‘a building worthy of the important Municipality of Newtown.’6 The Town Hall had been acquired in 1865 from the School of Arts and was purchased in 1868 for £1000 along with the library which was the first Free Public Library in New South Wales.7 In 1888 the building of a new Town Hall on the existing site was proposed and again in 1890 the matter was considered with a proposal to purchase St. George’s Hall being vetoed.8 Though it was reported in 1899 that a suitable building could be erected for £10,000 the time was not felt to be right.9 In 1911 a competition was held for the design of a new Town Hall

  • 1. Ibid.
  • 2. NMC Minutes 28th January 1913, p 8 (M. L. Q991. 1 C which is unavailable due to repairs at the moment)
  • 3. NMC Minutes 17th December 1912, p 276
  • 4. NMC Minutes 14th January 1913, p 1
  • 5. NMC Minutes 22nd April 1913, p 33
  • 6. NMC Minutes 25th February 1913, p 19
  • 7. W. Chubb, op. cit., pp 14, 16
  • 8. Ibid., pp 27-8
  • 9. Ibid., p 33


with the premium of £100 going to “Light and Air”, a plan submitted by Messrs. Morrow and De Putron, local architects.1 The proposal to resume St. George’s Hall had again been vetoed.2 The campaign was well under way in 1912 when the Aldermen decided to petition the Governor under Corporate Seal regarding the resumption of St. George’s Hall.3 It was in 1913 that the Council applied in a poll to its ratepayers for the powers to resume the Hall under the Local Government Act, Section 109 (9). The poll was held on 29th March 1913 with 79 votes in the affirmative and 422 in the negative. No doubt Alderman C. H. Turtle was pleased at the result for he dissented from the motion to resume St. George’s Hall in which his family’s real estate business had a prime position.4 On 4th August 1914 Great Britain declared war and at the next meeting of the Newtown Council the Mayor, Frank Bamfield, expressed his ‘sincere admiration of the unanimity of Members of the Government, both at home and in Australia’. He moved:

“That this Council places on record its whole hearted loyalty to the British Throne, fealty to its representatives here, and expresses admiration for the unanimously loyal stand taken by the Hon. the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Wade, the Members of the Ministry, and all public men in the present war crisis.”

The motion was ‘carried unanimously with acclamation, and the singing of “Rule Britannia”.’5 The patriotism of Newtown was expressed in action for three thousand men enlisted, which was over ten per cent of the population.6

  • 1. Ibid., p 37
  • 2. N. M. C. Minutes 16th May 1911, p 312
  • 3. W. Chubb, op. cit., p 40
  • 4. NMC Minutes 25th February 1913, p 19 and 8th April 1913, p 27 (Result of Poll)
  • 5. NMC Minutes llth August 1914, p 162
  • 6. S. D. Smith, op. cit., p 24


This was ‘the war to end all wars’ and Newtown rallied all her forces. The Newtown Patriotic Committee was formed and the Methodist and Congregational Churches invited Council members to their Patriotic Services. Everyone wanted to do their bit for the war effort. Two men asked the Council for permission to take up a collection with a billy-goat in the streets of Newtown.’1 After just a few Friday night collections the Newtown Red Cross raised £50 which was presented to the Belgian Consul at St. George’s Hall to be used for the Belgian Clothing Relief Society.2 The infants of Camdenville Public School held a concert in 1916 using the money raised to buy a sewing machine so the children could help with the war effort.3 The women and girls of Newtown knitted socks which were sent through the Red Cross to Australian soldiers. They were known as ‘Sister Susies’ because of the alliterative phrase, ‘Sister Suzie knitting socks for soldiers.’ It was not considered unusual to be knitting in church and everywhere else. Mittens, balaclavas, gloves, scarves as well as socks were sent with notes inside giving the name and address of the knitter who often received thank you letters and even photos of the soldiers who received their gift.4 Jessie Mottram’s grandmother knitted two pairs of socks a week.5 Children at Camdenville Public School would put a packet of chewing gum into the toe and the girls’ headmistress would sometimes read the soldiers’ letters out at assembly.6 Many concerts, processions and collections were held over the war years. The Newtown Rugby League Football Club held a procession and a Fancy Dress Football Match in aid of soldiers’ widows.7 Newtown was visited by the “Tank” on 9th April 1918 during

  • 1. NMC Minutes 25th August 1914, pp 164-6 and 20th October 1914, p 174
  • 2. NMC Minutes 22nd September 1914, p 169 and 9th February, 1915, p 204
  • 3. Lyn Collingwood et al., Camdenvi1le 1882-1892, Newtown: Camdenville Public School, 1982, p 25
  • 4. P. Cole, interview cited
  • 5. J. Bateson, interview cited
  • 6. L. Collingwood et al., op. cit., p 21
  • 7. NMC Minutes 19th September 1916, p 358


Tank Week and raised over £71,400 for the Sixth War Loan while £106,460 was subscribed for the Seventh War Loan. Plate 59. Town Hall, Newtown, in Jubilee Year.


For this Newtown received an “Honor Flag” which was unfurled on “Jacks’ Day”, November 1st, 1918.1 The latter was just one of the collection days held in Newtown. Others included Australian Red Cross Day, A. I. F. Memorial Day, Soldiers’ Dependents’ Day and War Chest Day.2 A full account of all the fund raising activities would be too long so perhaps a look at just one of the special “Days” will suffice. “Australia Day” was held on 30th July 1915 with a Railway and Tramway procession which was interesting, unique and amusing’ passing through the municipality.3 An “Old Girls’ Reunion” of Newtown Superior Public School had been held at the Town Hall on 26th July with the proceeds going to the Australia Day Fund. The Newtown Methodist Church held a concert on 28th July and the Newtown Scots stall held one on 5th August at the Town Hall, both in aid of the Australia Day Fund.4 The Ladies Orange Lodge also held a concert in aid of wounded soldiers on 30th August with proceeds going to the same fund.5 On many such occasions the use of the Town Hall was provided free by the Council. Australia Day in Newtown also became known as the “Day of No Change”. So generous was the community that almost every two shilling piece or smaller coin was deposited in the Town Hall strongroom instead of circulating as usual. This led to difficulties at the Railway Station, Tramway Depot, Post Office and all the shops of the area which could not keep up with the demand for change. Collectors brought dippers full of silver and buckets and tubs full of copper coins to the Town Hall where the few officers received their contributions. The officers were run off their feet and had no time

  • 1. NMC Minutes 2nd April 1918, p 509, 16th April 1918, p 510 and 29th October 1918, p 562
  • 2. S. D. Smith, op. cit., p 24
  • 3. NMC Minutes 10th August 1915, p 255
  • 4. NMC Minutes 13th July 1951, pp 248-9
  • 5. NMC Minutes 29th June 1915, p 245


Plates 60 and 61. Newtown Superior Public School Honour Roll and one of the Newtown soldiers whose name appears on it, Private Harry E. Tarran.


to count out copper and silver in change for notes for the hundred or two messengers who were forced to leave empty-handed. When they failed it was the bosses themselves who converged on the Town Hall, being by now almost frantic and some quite indignant. Even so, they managed to get into the spirit of the “Day” for soon they were working like counter clerks in counting out the change for themselves under the watchful eye of one of the “Day” officials.1 Early in 1915 the Newtown Council initiated a patriotic movement to follow ‘the excellent example set by His Majesty King George V, in regard to abstinence from alcoholic liquors during the war.’2 The co-operation of all municipalities was invited in what became the “Follow the King” Movement. Pledges of support were sent to the Council from many councils including Waterloo, Marrickville, St. Peters, Bega and West Maitland. Among those councils which simply received the Newtown Council’s letters were Randwick, Paddington, Vaucluse and Gundagai. In all 156 councils gave their hearty support and only 30 councils simply received the communication.3 It is no surprise that one group which was pleased to thank the Council for its ‘patriotic and courageous action in starting the “Follow the King” Movement’ was the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.4 Newtown was vigorous in its efforts towards recruiting men for the Expeditionary Forces. Meetings were held on Newtown Bridge which were largely attended and most successful.5 The Council was greatly concerned when a meeting held at the Newtown Stadium attended by the Premier, W. A. Holman, and the Opposition leader, C. G. Wade, was disrupted by part of

  • 1. S. D. Smith, op. cit., pp 26, 28.
  • 2. NMC Minutes 20th April 1915, p 227
  • 3. NMC Minutes 4th May 1915, p 228 and 18th May 1915, pp 232-3
  • 4. NMC Minutes 18th May 1915, p 233
  • 5. NMC Minutes 27th July 1915, pp 251-2


the audience which refused to listen to their address supporting enlistment for the defence of the Empire.1 When the Socialists held meetings on Newtown Bridge ousting the Bible Teachers’ Association from their usual position the Premier was informed that the former group’s disloyal speeches were considered ‘distinctly detrimental to the present campaign for enlisting of soldiers.’ The Socialists were warned that their disloyal speeches made them liable to be summoned.2 St. John’s Ambulance, Newtown, were granted the free use of the Town Hall for a Social Evening in 1915 to farewell some of their members who were leaving for the front.3 In 1917 the Band Master of the Enmore and Newtown Citizens’ Band informed the Council they would not apply for the usual subsidy because a number of the Band members had enlisted.4 The Newtown “Win the War” League held meetings at the Town Hall for the recruiting effort as well as entertaining soldiers in camp and the returned soldiers of the Newtown district.5 The Gilgandra Coo-ees passed through Newtown in November 1915. They had marched all the way from Gilgandra, to the north of Dubbo, collecting men willing to enlist on the way. They were given refreshments and entertainment at Alderman Szarka’s Enmore Picture Theatre and an official Reception was held at Newtown Town Hall which was ‘an unqualified success.6 As they marched along King Street, Newtown, in their blue overalls and other civilian clothes onlookers gave them gifts of

  • 1. NMC Minutes 10th August 1915, p 255
  • 2. NMC Minutes 13th July 1915, p 248 and 27th July 1915, p 251
  • 3. NMC Minutes 24th August 1915, p 257
  • 4. NMC Minutes 23rd January 1917, p 389
  • 5. NMC Minutes 24th July 1917, p 438 and llth December 1917, p 474
  • 6. NMC Minutes 16th November 1915, p 281


cigarettes and sweets.1 In 1917 a rumour passed around the municipality that the Mayor, Charles H. Turtle, had enlisted for active service. While speaking during the State Election Campaign he had been twitted by a Mr. Toohey ‘of being of military age, and yet neglecting to do his share in the defence of the Empire’ whereupon he challenged Mr. Toohey to accompany him to Victoria Barracks and enlist. On 25th March both enlisted themselves for active service in the artillery section and were given a medical examination. Unfortunately while the Mayor was declared to be unfit, Mr. Toohey was accepted for active service!2 In 1916 the first Referendum on Conscription for military service was held and a public meeting was held in Newtown at St. George’s Hall. The Sun reported on 17th October that the cause of the Allies was likely to be damaged by it for a show of hands revealed only 50 people favoured Australia while 1,000 hands were held up in favour of the Kaiser. Newtown was not so disloyal for the confusion and noise of the time meant the audience had not heard the question correctly.3 The Newtown Council made its attitude to conscription quite clear for it gave its hearty co-operation to the Universal Service League and at the time of the second Conscription Referendum in 1917 it flatly refused permission for the Cook Labor Council to hold meetings on behalf of those opposed to conscription and denied their application to take up collections.4 Despite the Newtown Council’s views both referenda showed a sound opposition to the introduction of compulsory military service overseas.

  • 1. W. D. McGilchrist, letter cited
  • 2. NMC Minutes 3rd April 1917, p 409
  • 3. NMC Minutes 17th October 1916, p 366
  • 4. NMC Minutes 13th November 1917, p 468


One of the less savoury aspects of the war in Australia was the attitude taken towards those of German, Austrian and Turkish origin. In Newtown the Council gave its hearty approval to the police’s action in preventing the German Band from playing in the municipality during the war. The Anti-German League held a public meeting on Newtown Bridge.1 Newtown also gave its co-operation to many other councils which proposed measures to deal with resident aliens. Manly Council suggested the transacting of business with German or Austrian firms should be discountenanced.2 Hurstville Council wished all Germans, naturalised or otherwise, to be dismissed from public service.3 Mosman Council suggested German, Austrian or other alien subjects should not be employed by Municipal Councils, and Brewarrina Council thought interned enemy subjects should be employed on municipal or other works to defray the cost of their protection while Newtown Council gave its support to both.4 Newtown Council unanimously approved the internment of enemy aliens as suggested by Manly Council.5 After hostilities had ceased both Councils protested against the action of the Federal Government in releasing German internees.6 A lasting change resulting from the war years was the renaming of German Sausage as the more acceptable Devon sausage.7 At least one man of German origin in Newtown was forced to change his name after the war. He was Mr. Langeschwerdt, a clerical assistant at the Newtown Post Office for

  • 1. NMC Minutes 7th September 1915, p 263 and 20th October 1914, p 176
  • 2. NMC Minutes 1st December 1914, p 186
  • 3. NMC Minutes 24th August 1915, p 258
  • 4. NMC Minutes 15th June 1915, p 240 and 7th September 1915, p 261
  • 5. NMC Minutes 30th October 1917, p 463
  • 6. NMC Minutes 4th February 1919, p 586
  • 7. F. N. Smith, op. cit., p 15


over twenty years by 1912, being known as one of the popular officers in the service, yet he became Mr. Langsworth.1 A new kind of entry appears in the Council’s minutes in January 1917 referring to the deaths of some of Newtown’s soldiers as well as military honours they received. Lieutenant Trott gained the Military Cross as did Lieutenant Clive Dunn.2 Sergeant W. W. Gocher was awarded the Military Medal but shortly after the Council sent their congratulations to his father they were sending a note of sympathy. Naturally they wished that all residents of the municipality who had seen active service should be remembered so the Council decided an Honour Roll should be erected in the Town Hall.4 The Newtown Baptist Church, St. Enoch’s Presbyterian Church, the Enmore Superior Public School and the Newtown Superior Public School also erected Honour Rolls.5 The Council’s six Memorial Tablets were not unveiled until Sunday 21st November 1920 by His Excellency Sir Walter Davidson, K. C. M. G. 6 The public of Newtown rejoiced on 12th November 1918 for a public holiday had been declared to celebrate the signing of the Armistice and the apparent end of the war. Children banged garbage tin lids and kerosene tins and a bugle band marched all over Newtown because the ‘boys were coming home.’ 8 One group of children celebrated with an impromptu street parade, some dressing as soldiers, a nurse and “Britannia. ” Residents rushed into the streets to join the celebrations not bothering even to shut their doors.9 The Great War for Civilisation

  • 1. W. Chubb, op. cit., pp 134-5 and J. Bateson, interview cited.
  • 2. NMC Minutes 9th January 1917, p 388 and 8th January 1918, p 478
  • 3. NMC Minutes 6th March 1917, p 403 and 26th June 1917, p 429
  • 4. NMC Minutes 13th November 1917, p 467
  • 5. NMC Minutes 5th August 1919, p 624, 9th January 1917, p 381, 5th March 1918, p 500 and S. D. Smith, op. cit., p 24
  • 6. Ibid., p 24
  • 7. NMC Minutes 12th November 1918
  • 8. J. Bateson, interview cited
  • 9. L. Collingwood et al., op. cit., pp 21, 26 (photo)


had been won. The official Peace celebrations did not begin until July 1919 when the Council moved:

‘That a message be forwarded from this Council, under Corporate Seal, to His Excellency the Governor General of Australia, conveying an expression of sincere loyalty to His Majesty the King and gratitude to the Allies’ Navy, Army and Mercantile Marine, and to the Allies’ Advisers for their magnificent work, which, under Divine guidance and blessing has culminated in the heralding in of an era of “peace and goodwill”, expressing the wish that our beloved Empire may long enjoy a lasting and glorious peace.’1

The Newtown Bridge was suitably decorated for the celebrations. The South Sydney Harriers’ Amateur Athletic Club conducted an eight mile road race beginning and ending in King Street, Newtown and Enmore Superior Public School held Peace Celebration Sports on the Newington College ground.2 The Council provided Illuminated Soldiers Certificates for the men of Newtown who had fought and the Newtown Strong Post Committee remembered those who did not return by placing two ornamental vases in the Town Hall inscribed, ‘In loving memory of our brave Soldiers.’3 A point was made of employing returned soldiers as municipal workmen including one former employee, Arthur Eggleton, who returned to his old job which had been promised to him when he enlisted in 1915.4

  • 1. NMC Minutes 8th July 1919, p 619
  • 2. NMC Minutes 8th July 1919, p 620, 13th May 1919, p 609 and 2nd September 1919, p 630
  • 3. NMC Minutes 30th September 1919, p 637 and 25th November 1919, p 650
  • 4. NMC Minutes 19th October 1915, p 274 and 2nd September 1919, p 631


It was in January 1919 that Sydney was struck by the Pneumonic Influenza epidemic 1 which is commonly remembered as the ‘Bubonic Flu’, erroneously reflecting the memory of the earlier plague in 1900.2 At the beginning of February the Newtown Council praised the Government for its prompt action in containing the epidemic yet at the very next Council meeting measures to alleviate the problem in Newtown were discussed, including the advisability of using disinfectant in the Council’s water carts. Business people who provided free public inhalatoriums were thanked for their display of public spirit and there was an atomiser available every morning at the Town Hall for anyone requiring it.3 By the end of April cases of influenza were felt to be on the decrease though in June the minutes tell of the death of a resident of King Street in the prime of life.4 Everyone in Sydney was required to wear a mask. No one was allowed on a tram without one and when Pearl Cole and her mother forgot theirs they just had to go home to fetch it and catch a later tram.5 People made their own masks and trimmed them with a fringe or beads.6 Jessie Mottram’s friend became a wardsman at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital where he used to walk along the verandah saying hello to the men in the ward. Only half an hour later when he returned half of them would be dead.7 Mrs. Tarran told her children to stand on the balcony and watch the ambulances and funeral cars taking the bodies of victims away. Not one of their family got the ‘flu.8

  • 1. NMC Minutes 7th January 1919, p 576
  • 2. Both Mrs. F. N. Smith and Mrs. P. Cole used this title for the epidemic
  • 3. NMC Minutes 4th February 1919, p 585, 18th February 1919, p 591, 1st April 1919, p 602
  • 4. NMC Minutes 29th April 1919, p 606 and 24th June 1919, p 617
  • 5. P. Cole, interview cited
  • 6. F. N. Smith, op. cit., p 10
  • 7. J. Bateson, interview cited
  • 8. F. N. Smith, op. cit., p 10


At Rookwood Cemetery even the rest rooms for people visiting graves were closed and filled with ‘coffins and coffins and coffins’ because they couldn’t be buried quick enough.1 Children and adults had to be vaccinated but that wasn’t as bad as getting that pneumonic ‘flu. 2 Once again Newtown celebrated in 1922. This time the reason was the Diamond Jubilee of the Municipality of Newtown. The celebration rivalled the earlier Jubilee. Carnival Week festivities began on Friday 8th December with the Grand Carnival Procession leaving Forbes Street at 2. 30 p. m. passing along King Street North, Enmore Road, Edgeware Road, Lord Street and back along King Street South to finish at Australia Street. Many prizes were given including best comic costume, the best Tandem, and the best decorated motor cycle, with or without sidecar. In the Motor Section prizes were given for the smallest car in Australia, the worst car in the world, the lorry with the best advertising display and the Motor Car carrying Most Passengers. In the Horse Section they were given for one, two and four horse lorry turnouts, best sulky turnout, best turnout from advertising point of view and worst turnout. In all there were thirty-one prize winning categories.3 There was something for everyone. One procession wasn’t enough for the very next Friday afternoon a Monster Procession by the Commercial travellers accompanied by the Newtown Band covered the same route as the first. A Billy-cart and Scooter Parade with prizes for the best decorated, most comical and most original had also been held the day after the Grand Carnival Procession. The main streets of Newtown were also the venue for a grand display of physical culture and boxing and the Fire Brigade put on a demonstration of fire drill in Australia Street.4

  • 1. P. Cole, interview cited.
  • 2. J. Bateson, interview cited.
  • 3. S. D. Smith, op. cit., pp 60, 62
  • 4. Ibid., pp 62, 64, 66, 68



Plate 62, 63, 64 Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Camperdown.


Part of the aim of the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations was to advertise the Municipality and more particularly to promote the shops and businesses of Newtown. Hence, a Monster Shopping Carnival was thought appropriate.1 Shopkeepers decorated their windows hoping to win prizes for the best display and the buildings and streets were illuminated and hung with bunting. In the Giving Competition individual shopkeepers offered prizes to their customers.2 The theatres of Newtown hosted a free matinee for the school children of the borough’s seven public and Catholic schools. The Vaudeville artists of Clay’s Bridge Theatre put on ‘The Clay and Christmas Cheer Day’, a gala day of which it was said, ‘never before in the history of Newtown has such an entertainment in our streets been witnessed.’3 The collections taken up on this day were to give ‘Christmas Cheer’ to the poor of Newtown to be distributed by the Newtown Citizens’ Aid Society.4 The Hub, Enmore and Prince of Wales theatres were made available for the Newtown Jubilee Baby Show for which huge numbers had entered. A total of £35 in prizes for the three divisions was given including a ‘magnificent perambulator’ and each first prize winner received a photo enlargement while first, second and third prize winners all received gold medals. The winners were decided by the number of votes cast in the form of tickets purchased at each theatre with no limit

  • 1. NMC Minutes, 26th September 1922, p 918
  • 2. S. D. Smith, op. cit., pp 68, 97
  • 3. Ibid., p 68
  • 4. NMC Minutes 24th October 1922, p 922


Plate 65. Harry Clay’s Bridge Theatre and the artists who performed for the ‘Clay and Christmas Cheer Day’, 1922


on the number of tickets one could buy.1 Fuller’s Majestic Theatre hosted the Combined Church Service on Sunday 10th December. Rabbi Lenser of the Newtown Synagogue led a hymn as did Rev. Bidwell of St. Stephen’s Church of England. The sermon was delivered by Rev. Bell of St. Enoch’s Presbyterian Church and the closing hymn “Onward, Christian Soldiers” was led by Commander Bentley of the Salvation Army, the only woman among the ten clergy taking part. Community singing followed that evening at the Bridge.2 One of Newtown’s returned soldiers, Lieutenant Morris, presented the Council as a Diamond Jubilee gift some framed photographs he had taken at the landing at Gallipoli and other war incidents.3 The Grand Jubilee Banquet was held at St. George’s Hall on 12th December and the following evening the Grand Jubilee Concert took place under the patronage of their Excellencies Sir Walter and Dame Margaret Davidson. A fine selection of music and song was performed by the New South Wales State Orchestra, the Sydney Harmonic Choir and various solo artists. During the evening a presentation was made by the Minister for Education to the district school children who won prizes in the essay competition on “The Progress of Newtown.” The next night again the Grand Band Solo Competition was held at the Methodist School Hall with the Champion of Champions receiving a silver cup valued at £5 5s.4 The Newtown Jubilee Queen was crowned on the final day of Carnival Week, Friday 15th December. The candidates were

  • 1. S. D. Smith, op. cit., p 64
  • 2. Ibid., pp 58, 66
  • 3. NMC Minutes 7th November 1922, p 927
  • 4. S. D. Smith, op. cit., pp 62, 64, 66


Miss Mercia Russel for the Newtown Ambulance and Transport Brigade; Mrs. Bert Reid for the Tramway Employees; Mrs. Francis Hickey for the Shopkeepers; and Mrs. Ben Walker for the Citizens. There was no limit on voting which cost only one penny.1 Certainly the most novel idea of the whole week of celebrations was the celebration of the Jubilee Wedding. Petty Officer William C. H. Stallard, R. A. N., married Miss Annie Roberts on the steps of the Town Hall on Thursday 14th December 1922. A naval guard of honour was in attendance and the wedding reception was held in the Town Hall. A gift evening arranged by the Ladies’ Committee was held on the Monday prior to the wedding.2 According to one observer the Council also paid for their honeymoon and enough furniture for their new home.3 The wedding dress was made and donated by Mr. and Mrs. Burton, ladies’ and children’s clothiers and outfitters, and the wedding veil, a gift worth £10 10s., was provided by Mrs. Nichol of La Pellier millinery, both businesses of King Street south. Even the wedding ring was donated by Morris Joseph, jeweller, of King Street, Newtown.4 As in 1912, a book was published to record the achievements of the borough. It was compiled by Sydney Doming Smith of Suburban Dailies Ltd., Newtown and its full title was the Diamond Jubilee Souvenir of the Municipality of Newtown (With which is included the Important Districts of Enmore and King Street, St. Peters) 1862-1922. Mr. Smith made a point of asking the Council for its patronage of the book as the

  • 1. Ibid., pp 56, 68
  • 2. Ibid., p 54
  • 3. J. Bateson, interview cited
  • 4. S. D. Smith, op. cit., pp 27, 102


Official Souvenir which was granted.1 The Souvenir consisted of 110 pages of information about the Newtown area, the Council’s achievements, the suburb’s patriotic and charitable efforts, institutions, schools, sport, societies, banks, churches and above all its advertisers. Almost every second page contains an advertisement for a Newtown shop or business. No doubt they would have covered the cost of the publication.


Plate 66. Jubilee Bride and Groom, 1922.

While the 1922 book covers many topics it is of much more limited scope than the earlier book, and indeed in some cases exactly the same photos have been used, but together the books give an interesting picture of Newtown in the early twentieth century.

We have seen that Newtown was involved in many events of local, national and international importance in the period from 1892 to 1922. When stricken with depression, bubonic plague and influenza the suburb tried to cope as best it could with its situation. When England was at war the citizens of Newtown remained loyal to their ancestry, rallying

  • 1. NMC Minutes 7th November 1922, pp 926-7


to the cause whether on the home or European front and rejoicing with the victors after their long struggle. When the Municipality celebrated its Jubilee and Diamond Jubilee they rejoiced at the progress of Newtown. Sadly, Newtown’s age was accompanied with decline for a Newtown address too soon ceased to be fashionable. Though Newtown had given so much Sydney’s suburban sprawl left her behind.



The Municipality of Newtown in the years 1892 to 1922 was a thriving community which was fiercely loyal both to its businesses and to its country. It was a good place to live full of excitement and activity. Its many shops, lining King Street and Enmore Road, provided for the needs both of residents and those living in the suburbs nearby and farther afield. The suburb did its best trying to cope with adversity, rallying to the cause and rejoicing in achievements at home or abroad. Despite all this the decline had begun and as we have seen in the case of transport, a factor which drew people to live away from the city, Newtown was to find its needs subordinated to the newer suburbs.

Any study of this kind is bound to expose areas for more research. Undoubtedly there is much the oral historian can do to preserve a valuable source of information, the memories of residents of Newtown in this period who are already in their sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties. There is a place for family historians to relate their families’ experience to the wider community. Much remains to be done in the fields of housing conditions and economic decline. It is to be hoped that others will take up the challenge of studying this important area’s history in these and subsequent years.

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